Tuesday, February 28, 2012

CATCH-22 (1970)

Classics Revisited Book Group (Posting 20)

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to.
Joseph Heller Catch-22

Dobbs: [Over the radio] Help him! Help him!
Yossarian: Help who?
Dobbs: Help the bombardier!
Yossarian: I'm the bombardier, I'm all right.
Dobbs: Then help HIM, help HIM!
From the Mike Nichols film Catch-22

This is my twentieth and final posting for books I’ve done in my Classics Revisited book group that have accompanying movies. Catch-22 (the book) is one of the most famous and most read classics of the last fifty or so years. It features a set of chapters mostly identified by the names of different American bombardiers during World War II in the European theater in the latter stages of World War II. Most of the stories revolve around Captain Yossarian, the seemingly only sane flyer in the whole military who just wants to complete his bombing missions and go home.

The nature of the book seems to not lend itself to film, but after watching it again, this is a case where I actually like the film more than the book. Director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Buck Henry gave the film a dream quality that really works here and the cast led by Alan Arkin is top notch. Part of the problem with the initial run of Catch-22 (the movie) is that it came out the same year as the other anti-establishment military movie M*A*S*H and seemed to get lost in the shuffle or didn’t quite get to the subversive level of the Altman film.

Book or movie? Despite the undeniable humor of the book (My favorite part is Doc Daneeka trying to convince everyone he isn’t dead even though he’s standing right in front of them) and the fact that it does have a lot to say about the insanity that usually accompanies war, I did find the shtick a little repetitive after awhile. I didn’t get that with the movie. I suppose that sometimes having to edit out plot threads and characters can be a good thing.

Well that’s it for the two-month journey into the Classics Revisited Book Group section of this blog. Here are all the books we did for this group presented here if for no other reason than I just like to make lists and hope to add to it in the future.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
1984 by George Orwell
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
King Lear by William Shakespeare
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Night by Elie Weisel
Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Lolita by Vladamir Nabakov
Short Stories by Edgar Allen Poe
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
As You Like It by William Shakespeare
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
True Grit by Charles Portis
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

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